How to Spot Bullshit: A Primer by Princeton Philosopher Harry Frankfurt

We live in an age of truthiness. Comedian Stephen Colbert coined the word to describe the Bush administration’s tendency to fudge the facts in its favor.

Ten years after the American Dialect Society named it Word of the Year, former president Bush’s calendar is packed with such leisure activities as golf and painting portraits of world leaders, but “truthiness” remains on active duty.

It’s particularly germane in this election year, though politicians are far from its only practitioners.

Take global warming. NASA makes a pretty rock solid case for both its existence and our role in it:

97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree: Climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities. In addition, most of the leading scientific organizations worldwide have issued public statements endorsing this position.

In view of such numbers, its understandable that a suburban Joe with a freezer full of factory-farmed beef and multiple SUVs in his garage would cling to the position that global warming is a lie. It’s his last resort, really.

But such self-rationalizations are not truth. They are truthiness.

Or to use the old-fashioned word favored by philosopher Harry Frankfurt, above: bullshit!

Frankfurt–a philosopher at Princeton and the author of On Bullshitallows that bullshit artists are often charming, or at their very least, colorful. They have to be. Achieving their ends involves engaging others long enough to persuade them that they know what they’re talking about, when in fact, that’s the opposite of the truth.

Speaking of opposites, Frankfurt maintains that bullshit is a different beast from an out-and-out lie. The liar makes a specific attempt to conceal the truth by swapping it out for a lie.

The bullshit artist’s approach is far more vague. It’s about creating a general impression.

There are times when I admit to welcoming this sort of manure. As a maker of low budget theater, your honest opinion of any show I have Little Red Hen’ed into existence is the last thing I want to hear upon emerging from the cramped dressing room, unless you truly loved it.

I’d also encourage you to choose your words carefully when dashing a child’s dreams.

But when it comes to matters of public policy, and the public good, yes, transparency is best.

It’s interesting to me that filmmakers James Nee and Christian Britten transformed a portion of their learned subject’s thoughts into voiceover narration for a lightning fast stock footage montage. It’s diverting and funny, featuring such ominous characters as Nosferatu, Bill Clinton, Charlie Chaplin’s Great Dictator, and Donald Trump, but isn’t it also the sort of misdirection sleight of hand at which true bullshitters excel?

Frankfurt expands upon his thoughts on bullshit in his aptly titled bestselling book, On Bullshit and its followup On Truth.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. Follow her @AyunHalliday

20 Lessons from the 20th Century About How to Defend Democracy from Authoritarianism, According to Yale Historian Timothy Snyder

Image by Rob Kall, via Flickr Commons

Timothy Snyder, Housum Professor of History at Yale University, is one of the foremost scholars in the U.S. and Europe on the rise and fall of totalitarianism during the 1930s and 40s. Among his long list of appointments and publications, he has won multiple awards for his recent international bestsellers Bloodlands: Europe between Hitler and Stalin and last year’s Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and WarningThat book in part makes the argument that Nazism wasn’t only a German nationalist movement but had global colonialist origins—in Russia, Africa, and in the U.S., the nation that pioneered so many methods of human extermination, racist dehumanization, and ideologically-justified land grabs.

The hyper-capitalism portrayed in the U.S.—even during the Depression—Snyder writes, fueled Hitler’s imagination, such that he promised Germans “a life comparable to that of the American people,” whose “racially pure and uncorrupted” German population he described as “world class.” Snyder describes Hitler’s ideology as a myth of racialist struggle in which “there are really no values in the world except for the stark reality that we are born in order to take things from other people.” Or as we often hear these days, that acting in accordance with this principle is the “smart” thing to do. Like many far right figures before and after, Hitler aimed to restore a state of nature that for him was a perpetual state of race war for imperial dominance.

After the November election, Snyder wrote a profile of Hitler, a short piece that made no direct comparisons to any contemporary figure. But reading the facts of the historical case alarmed most readers. A few days later, the historian appeared on a Slate podcast to discuss the article, saying that after he submitted it, “I realized there was more…. there are an awful lot of echoes.” Snyder admits that history doesn’t actually repeat itself. But we’re far too quick, he says, to dismiss that idea as a cliché “and not think about history at all. History shows a range of possibilities.” Similar events occur across time under similar kinds of conditions. And it is, of course, possible to learn from the past.

If you’ve heard other informed analysis but haven’t read Snyder’s New York Review of Books columns on fascism in Putin’s Russia or the former Yanukovich’s Ukraine, or his long article “Hitler’s World May Not Be So Far Away,” you may have seen his widely-shared Facebook post making the rounds. As he argued in The Guardian last September, today we may be “too certain we are ethically superior to the Europeans of the 1940s.” On November, 15, Snyder wrote on Facebook that “Americans are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism, or communism.” Snyder has been criticized for conflating these regimes, and rising “into the top rungs of punditdom,” but when it comes to body counts and levels of suppressive malignancy, it’s hard to argue that Stalinist Russia, any more than Tsarist Russia, was anyone’s idea of a democracy.

Rather than making a historical case for viewing the U.S. as exactly like one of the totalitarian regimes of WWII Europe, Snyder presents 20 lessons we might learn from those times and use creatively in our own where they apply. In my view, following his suggestions would make us wiser, more self-aware, proactive, responsible citizens, whatever lies ahead. Read Snyder’s lessons from his Facebook post below and consider pre-ordering his latest book On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century:

1. Do not obey in advance. Much of the power of authoritarianism is freely given. In times like these, individuals think ahead about what a more repressive government will want, and then start to do it without being asked. You’ve already done this, haven’t you? Stop. Anticipatory obedience teaches authorities what is possible and accelerates unfreedom.

2. Defend an institution. Follow the courts or the media, or a court or a newspaper. Do not speak of “our institutions” unless you are making them yours by acting on their behalf. Institutions don’t protect themselves. They go down like dominoes unless each is defended from the beginning.

3. Recall professional ethics. When the leaders of state set a negative example, professional commitments to just practice become much more important. It is hard to break a rule-of-law state without lawyers, and it is hard to have show trials without judges.

4. When listening to politicians, distinguish certain words. Look out for the expansive use of “terrorism” and “extremism.” Be alive to the fatal notions of “exception” and “emergency.” Be angry about the treacherous use of patriotic vocabulary.

5. Be calm when the unthinkable arrives. When the terrorist attack comes, remember that all authoritarians at all times either await or plan such events in order to consolidate power. Think of the Reichstag fire. The sudden disaster that requires the end of the balance of power, the end of opposition parties, and so on, is the oldest trick in the Hitlerian book. Don’t fall for it.

6. Be kind to our language. Avoid pronouncing the phrases everyone else does. Think up your own way of speaking, even if only to convey that thing you think everyone is saying. (Don’t use the internet before bed. Charge your gadgets away from your bedroom, and read.) What to read? Perhaps “The Power of the Powerless” by Václav Havel, 1984 by George Orwell, The Captive Mind by Czesław Milosz, The Rebel by Albert Camus, The Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt, or Nothing is True and Everything is Possible by Peter Pomerantsev.

7. Stand out. Someone has to. It is easy, in words and deeds, to follow along. It can feel strange to do or say something different. But without that unease, there is no freedom. And the moment you set an example, the spell of the status quo is broken, and others will follow.

8. Believe in truth. To abandon facts is to abandon freedom. If nothing is true, then no one can criticize power, because there is no basis upon which to do so. If nothing is true, then all is spectacle. The biggest wallet pays for the most blinding lights.

9. Investigate. Figure things out for yourself. Spend more time with long articles. Subsidize investigative journalism by subscribing to print media. Realize that some of what is on your screen is there to harm you. Learn about sites that investigate foreign propaganda pushes.

10. Practice corporeal politics. Power wants your body softening in your chair and your emotions dissipating on the screen. Get outside. Put your body in unfamiliar places with unfamiliar people. Make new friends and march with them.

11. Make eye contact and small talk. This is not just polite. It is a way to stay in touch with your surroundings, break down unnecessary social barriers, and come to understand whom you should and should not trust. If we enter a culture of denunciation, you will want to know the psychological landscape of your daily life.

12. Take responsibility for the face of the world. Notice the swastikas and the other signs of hate. Do not look away and do not get used to them. Remove them yourself and set an example for others to do so.

13. Hinder the one-party state. The parties that took over states were once something else. They exploited a historical moment to make political life impossible for their rivals. Vote in local and state elections while you can.

14. Give regularly to good causes, if you can. Pick a charity and set up autopay. Then you will know that you have made a free choice that is supporting civil society helping others doing something good.

15. Establish a private life. Nastier rulers will use what they know about you to push you around. Scrub your computer of malware. Remember that email is skywriting. Consider using alternative forms of the internet, or simply using it less. Have personal exchanges in person. For the same reason, resolve any legal trouble. Authoritarianism works as a blackmail state, looking for the hook on which to hang you. Try not to have too many hooks.

16. Learn from others in other countries. Keep up your friendships abroad, or make new friends abroad. The present difficulties here are an element of a general trend. And no country is going to find a solution by itself. Make sure you and your family have passports.

17. Watch out for the paramilitaries. When the men with guns who have always claimed to be against the system start wearing uniforms and marching around with torches and pictures of a Leader, the end is nigh. When the pro-Leader paramilitary and the official police and military intermingle, the game is over.

18. Be reflective if you must be armed. If you carry a weapon in public service, God bless you and keep you. But know that evils of the past involved policemen and soldiers finding themselves, one day, doing irregular things. Be ready to say no. (If you do not know what this means, contact the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and ask about training in professional ethics.)

19. Be as courageous as you can. If none of us is prepared to die for freedom, then all of us will die in unfreedom.

20. Be a patriot. The incoming president is not. Set a good example of what America means for the generations to come. They will need it.

via Kottke

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Deconstructing How Louis CK Writes a Joke

Those who subscribe to the notion that deconstructing a joke ruins it may consider making an exception for the Nerdwriter (aka Evan Puschak).

His careful parsing of Louis CK’s Monopoly joke, above, takes rhythm, word choice, and the importance of a clearly stated premise into account.

Delivering the 207-word joke at the Beacon Theater, CK is characteristically nonchalant, but Puschak argues that there’s nothing unrehearsed about his performance.

Take the way he ramps up a scenario that will be familiar to any parent—the six-year-old who is emotionally unequipped to handle losing at games. CK gets at an even deeper truth about the howling injustice of being six, by saying that his younger daughter is “not emotionally developed enough to handle her inevitable loss in every game of Monopoly.”

Oh, the humanity.

Puschak also singles out CK’s acting ability. The way he speaks to his daughter, placing her in the first row of the audience, sharpens the comedy by helping the audience to fully visualize the scenario he’s set up:

I play Monopoly with my kids, that’s really fun. My nine year old, she can totally do Monopoly. The six year old totally gets how the game works but she’s not emotionally developed enough to handle her inevitable loss in every game of Monopoly because a monopoly loss is dark. It’s heavy. It’s not like when you lose at Candyland ‘Oh you got stuck in the fudgy-thing, baby! Oh well you’re in the gummy twirly-o’s! You didn’t get to win!’ But when she loses at Monopoly, I gotta look at her little face and go ‘Ok, so here’s what’s gonna happen now, ok? All your property, everything you have, all your railroads and houses, and all your money…that’s mine now. Gotta give it all to me. Give it to me, that’s right. And no no, you can’t play anymore because, you see, even though you’re giving me all of that, it doesn’t even touch how you owe me. Doesn’t even touch it, baby. You’re going down hard, it’s really bad. All you’ve been working for all day, I’m gonna take it now and I’m gonna use it to destroy your sister. I mean I’m gonna ruin her! It is just mayhem on this board for her now.

You can view the Nerdwriter’s other videos essays on his website or subscribe to his YouTube channel where a new video is published every Wednesday.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Her play Zamboni Godot is opening in New York City in March 2017. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

12 Million Declassified CIA Documents Now Free Online: Secret Tunnels, UFOs, Psychic Experiments & More

Image by Duffman, via Wikimedia Commons

“The United States Government has not yet made any official reply to the Soviet and East German allegations and protests concerning the 300-yard tunnel that American intelligence operatives are said to have built underneath the border between West and East Berlin for espionage purposes,” says a Washington Post article from 1956 headlined “The Tunnel of Love.” The Communists’ excitement about their discovery even had them conducting “special propaganda tours through the tunnel and to have exhibited the wiretapping and other recording apparatus that the Americans are supposed to have installed inside it.”

This amusing chapter of Cold War history might have seemed, to America at the time, like the kind of foiled effort — though one of an ingenuity admired on both sides of the Iron Curtain — best buried at the back of the espionage archives. But now, thanks to an executive order requiring the Central Intelligence Agency to release “nonexempt historically valuable records 25 years or older” as well as the dogged efforts of journalist Michael Best, you can read over 12 million pages of previously classified documents at CREST, the CIA Records Search Tool. In addition to the files on the “Berlin Tunnel” operation, it offers copious material on much else, such as vintage espionage techniques like writing with invisible ink and undetectably opening sealed letters and CIA research into spiritualist healingtelepathy, and other psychic powers.

For quite some time before now, you technically could have looked up all of this information yourself, provided you felt like going to the National Archives in College Park, Maryland, and pulling it up on one of the four computers made available to do so — but only between the hours of 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. The fact that you can now do it from the comfort of your browser owes in large part to the efforts of Best, who raised $15,000 on Kickstarter to go manually print out all (or at least some) of those twelve million pages and upload them to the internet, thereby prodding the CIA to save the ink-and-paper money and just do it themselves.

Some of the project’s backers, no doubt, wanted specifically to see what the CIA’s archives have to say about space aliens, a stock of information you may recall that we featured here just last year. “The publication of the files represents a potential motherlode of background material for researchers, journalists and curious hobbyists,” write the New York Times‘ Daniel Victor and Erin McCann, not long before admitting that “most of the files are pretty boring,” a result of “regular bureaucratic collation.” But then, that kind of methodical gathering and organizing of information has long constituted most of the work of national intelligence: even the short-lived “Tunnel of Love” gathered enough data to keep its processors busy for years after it became a Soviet tourist spot.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, the video series The City in Cinema, the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Watch Mr. Rogers Persuade Congress to Stop Cutting PBS Budget in 1969 : Would It Stop Trump from Defunding PBS & NEA Today?

Yesterday, the news broke that the Trump administration will apparently be slashing federal spending, to the tune of $10.5 trillion over 10 years. According to The Hill, the “departments of Commerce and Energy would see major reductions in funding.” And “the Corporation for Public Broadcasting [aka PBS] would be privatized, while the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities would be eliminated entirely.”

Attempts to cut funding for the arts is nothing new. Above, we take you back to 1969, when Richard Nixon planned to reduce PBS’ funding from $20 million to $10 million. That is, until Fred Rogers, the gentle creator of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, spent six short minutes before Senator John Pastore, the chairman of the Subcommittee on Communications, and made his pitch for publicly-funded educational television. In those 360 seconds, Rogers gets the gruff senator to do a complete 180 – to end up saying “It looks like you just earned the 20 million dollars.”

It’s unlikely that Mr. Rogers could get the same traction today. Quite the contrary, his sweetness and sincerity would likely be mocked quite mercilessly, a sign of how coarse our society has become these days.

Follow Open Culture on Facebook, Twitter and Flipboard and share intelligent media with your friends. Or better yet, sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. And if you want to make sure that our posts definitely appear in your Facebook newsfeed, just follow these simple steps.

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Download & Print Free Shepard Fairey Protest Posters for the Trump Inauguration

Shepard Fairey probably first crossed your radar when he drew the iconic “Hope” poster so associated with Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign. Now, he returns with another set of posters to help protest the inauguration of one Donald J. Trump. If you head over to the Amplifier Foundation web site, you can download and print a series of posters (shown above) by Fairey. The same applies to a number of posters designed by other artists, including Jessica Sabogal and Ernesto Yerena.

The images capture the “shared humanity of our diverse America” and condemn the exclusionary policies of the incoming administration. And thanks to the $1.3 million raised through a successful Kickstarter campaign, these posters will figure into a larger Inauguration Day plan. Here’s how it will work:

Much of Washington will be locked down on Inauguration Day, and in some areas there will be severe restrictions on signs and banners.  But we’ve figured out a hack.  It’s called the newspaper!  On January 20th, if this campaign succeeds, we’re going to take out full-page ads in the Washington Post with these images, so that people across the capitol and across the country will be able to carry them into the streets, hang them in windows, or paste them on walls.

You’re welcome to print and post these posters around your town–wherever it’s legally permitted to do so. To download the posters, click here.

Follow Open Culture on Facebook, Twitter and Flipboard and share intelligent media with your friends. Or better yet, sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. And if you want to make sure that our posts definitely appear in your Facebook newsfeed, just follow these simple steps.

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Learn What Old Norse Sounded Like, with UC Berkeley’s “Cowboy Professor, Dr. Jackson Crawford

If you want to study another language, by all means feel free to study such widely spoken ones as English, Spanish, and Chinese. But obscurity, as we all learn at one point or another growing up, also has an appeal, though we often need someone cool to give us a hint as to which obscurities to pursue. One “cowboy professor” has, since the videos he posts to Youtube have begun to gain popularity, emerged as the cool guy who may well turn a generation of scholars-to-be on to the study of Old Norse. Though he holds an academic position at the University of California, Berkeley, “Wyoming’s Dr. Jackson Crawford,” as he refers to himself, seems to spend at least part of his time in what he describes as “the Wilderness of the American West.”

He also shoots his videos out there, an appropriately sublime backdrop for the discussion of the mechanics of the Old Norse language, originally spoken by the Scandinavians of the 9th through the 13h centuries, and the myth and poetry composed in it.

Here we have three of Crawford’s videos meant to address questions of general curiosity about Old Norse: what the language sounded like, and, in two parts, how best to pronounce the names of the various gods, places, and other elements of its mythology, from Óðinn (whom you might have seen referred to as Odin) to Valhǫll (Valhalla) to Ásgarðr (Asgard).

Jackson also gives readings from the 13th-century Poetic Edda, arguably the most influential piece of Scandinavian literature ever written, and one which he recently translated into modern English. Perhaps a sample:

Þagalt ok hugalt
skyli þjóðans barn,
ok vígdjarft vera.
Glaðr ok reifr
skyli gumna hverr,
unz sinn bíðr bana.

A noble man should
be silent, thoughtful,
and bold in battle.
But every man should also
be cheerful and happy,
till the inevitable day of death.

In addition to that and other impressive CV items, he also came up with the runes and Old Norse dialogue for the hit Disney movie Frozen — just in case you had any concerns as to the language’s professional practicality. Explore his Youtube channel here.

via Digg

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, the video series The City in Cinema, the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Watch an Epic, 4-Hour Video Essay on the Making & Mythology of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks

If you’re like me, every little bit of information doled out for the upcoming third season of Twin Peaks is like a series of clues found along a dark path through the Ghostwood National Forest. We’ve seen brief views of some major characters. We’ve heard Angelo Badalamenti confirm he’s back to score the series. We picked up and speed read the Mark Frost-written Secret History. We know that it will be 18 hours of pure David Lynch and Mark Frost, and that whatever it may do, it won’t go all wonky and not-so-good like the terrible trough in the middle of Season Two. And now we have a date for the premiere: May 21.

So it’s not time to brew coffee, or put a cherry pie in the oven, just yet. Instead, it’s time to bone up on the series itself and ask ourselves, is Twin Peaks a failed series that needs to be rectified? Or if Lynch and Frost had never agreed to revisit their iconic work, would we still have a cohesive work?

Video essayist Joel Bocko says yes, and has made what is probably the definitive and most thorough analysis of the series out there on the web.

I first stumbled across Journey Through Twin Peaks one night, and thinking that it was only one short video essay I started watching. My mistake: episode one was only the first in a 28-chapter series that totaled over four hours, arranged in four parts. And, yes, I sat and watched the whole damn thing.

Bocko is good, real good. This is not uncritical fan worship. This is a man, like many of us, who fell in love with the transcendent heights of the show and suffered through its miserable lows, but, through that misery, figured out what made the show such a game-changer.

One important thing Bocko does is give Mark Frost his due. Usually hidden behind the art and the mythos of Lynch, Frost brought much to the show, from the detective procedural framework to themes of the occult and Theosophy. Bocko shows how Lynch came out of the Twin Peaks experience with a completely different and much more complex idea of character. Before Peaks, Lynch’s work saw good and evil existing not just on opposite sides of the spectrum, but as different characters. (Think of Blue Velvet.) In the films he makes afterwards, doppelgangers, fugue states, and self-negation, along with the spiritual confusion that come with it, are central to Lynch’s work.

But that’s just one of the many insights waiting for you in this rewarding analytical work, which also takes in Fire Walk With Me and Mulholland Dr. through to Inland Empire. Suffice it to say, it’s full of spoilers, so proceed with caution.

On the other hand, if you don’t have time before the premiere, you can always watch the first season in under a minute here.

via Welcome to Twin Peaks


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Ted Mills is a freelance writer on the arts who currently hosts the artist interview-based FunkZone Podcast. You can also follow him on Twitter at @tedmills, read his other arts writing at and/or watch his films here.

Photographer Creates Stunning Realistic Portraits That Recreate Surreal Scenes from Hieronymus Bosch Paintings

All images courtesy of Lori Pond

It is not often noted that the surrealist movement in the 1920s originated with poets like Paul Éluard and André Breton, himself a trained psychologist, who drew explicitly from the work of Sigmund Freud, “the private world of the mind,” as the Metropolitan Museum of Art puts it. And yet we certainly see the influence of Freudian poetry in the work of Giorgio de Chirico, Marcel Duchamp, Salvador Dalí, Joan Miró, and Man Ray. We also see it, inexplicably, in the work of Hieronymus Bosch, that 15th century Dutch painter of bizarre works like The Garden of Earthly Delights, a triptych that becomes exponentially more nightmarish as one scans across it from left to right. (Take a virtual tour of the painting here), and from which photographer Lori Pond draws in the astonishing photographs you see here.

How does such a faraway figure as Bosch, whom we know so little about, seem to communicate so closely with our epoch’s artistic movements? The Garden of Earthly Delights, writes Stephen Holden at the New York Times, “outstrips in boldness many of the extreme digital fantasies in Hollywood horror films.” Bosch’s incredibly detailed paintings “feel startlingly contemporary…. Reproductions of his paintings have adorned rock album covers, been parodied on The Simpsons and printed on silk bodices designed by Alexander McQueen.” And he was, in fact, named “Trendiest Apocalyptic Medieval Painter of 2014.”

We might well wonder what Bosch would have done with the same technologies as those who now pay him tribute. Perhaps something very much like Pond has with her Bosch Redux series, a collection of photographs of very close-up details in several of Bosch’s paintings, featuring one or two characters. To make these photos, writes Alyssa Coppelman at Adobe’s Create blog, Pond “bought props online, in antique stores, and at swap meets, and friends donated her old Halloween costumes.” She hired a prosthetics designer and her “taxidermy teacher.” For photos like that above from the central panel of the triptych, Pond even hired a set builder to create a life-sized boat that could fit the two real-life models.

Many of these effects might have been accomplished by early twentieth century surrealists, and indeed, when these details from Bosch’s work are amplified they resemble nothing so much as those psychoanalytic modernists. But Pond admits, “I fully abide by the maxim, ‘A photograph isn’t a photograph until it goes through Photoshop.’” She makes the usual adjustments, adds filters and effects, then employs “textures, backgrounds, and other small details from the original paintings,” making Bosch a collaborator in these close-up remixes, which come from The Last Judgment, The Temptation of St. Anthony, and The Garden of Earthly Delights, of course—the painting that first gave her the inspiration when Pond saw it at the Prado in Madrid. You can see many more examples of the series at Pond’s website, sixteen surreally apocalyptic visions in all.

via Dangerous Minds

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

The Women’s Suffrage March of 1913: The Parade That Overshadowed Another Presidential Inauguration a Century Ago

On Friday, a person who has insulted, demeaned, and threatened tens of millions of the country’s citizens will take the oath of office for the presidency of the United States. That’s an extraordinary thing, and the reaction will also be extraordinary—a Women’s March the following day in Washington, DC expected to draw hundreds of thousands of every gender, race, creed, and orientation. Sister marches and protests will take place in every major city on the East and West Coast and everywhere in-between, as well as internationally in cities like London, Sydney, Buenos Aires, Calgary, Barcelona, Dar es Salaam… the list goes on and on and on.

Why Women’s Marches if these events are all-inclusive? In addition to responding to the public displays of contempt for women we’ve witnessed over and over in the past year, the events intend to reaffirm the rights of all people. The organizers succinctly state that “women’s rights are human rights. We stand together, recognizing that defending the most marginalized among us is defending all of us.”

A Rawlsian progressive notion, and also a “Kingian” one, a description the march applies to its nonviolent principles. What they don’t say is that there is also significant historical precedent for the action. Over 100 years ago, another women’s march coincided with a presidential swearing-in, this time of Woodrow Wilson in March of 1913.

Marching for the cause of suffrage, women from around the country and the world arrived in DC on March 3rd, the day before Wilson’s inauguration. Many of those marchers had hiked 234 miles from New York in 17 days, bearing a letter to the President-elect, writes Mashable, “demanding that he make suffrage a priority of his administration and warning that the women of the nation would be watching ‘with an intense interest such as has never before been focused upon the administration of any of your predecessors.’” Organized by Alice Paul and Lucy Burns of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, the march promised, in their words, “the most conspicuous and important demonstration that has ever been attempted by suffragists in this country.”

The parade was filled with pageantry. “Clad in a white cape astride a white horse,” writes the Library of Congress, “lawyer Inez Mulholland led the great woman suffrage parage down Pennsylvania Avenue in the nation’s capital. Behind her stretched a long line with nine bands, four mounted brigades, three heralds, about twenty-four floats, and more than 5,000 marchers.” As you can see in the film footage at the top and the images here from the LoC—including the drawing of the parade route above by Little Nemo cartoonist Winsor McKay—the parade drew a huge global coalition. It also drew ridicule, harassment, and violence from groups in DC for the following day’s festivities. As the LoC writes:

[A]ll went well for the first few blocks. Soon, however, the crowds, mostly men in town for the following day’s inauguration of Woodrow Wilson, surged into the street making it almost impossible for the marchers to pass. Occasionally only a single file could move forward. Women were jeered, tripped, grabbed, shoved, and many heard “indecent epithets” and “barnyard conversation.” Instead of protecting the parade, the police “seemed to enjoy all the ribald jokes and laughter and in part participated in them.” One policeman explained that they should stay at home where they belonged.

Many marchers were injured; “two ambulances ‘came and went constantly for six hours, always impeded and at times actually opposed, so that doctor and driver literally had to fight their way to give succor.’” The event included several prominent figures, including Helen Keller, “who was unnerved by the experience.” Also present was Jeannette Rankin, who, writes Mashable, “would become the first woman elected to the House of Representatives four years later.” Nelly Bly marched, as did journalist and anti-lynching activist Ida B. Wells, “who marched with the Illinois delegation despite the complaints of some segregationist marchers.”

In fact, though the selective images suggest otherwise, the march was more inclusive than the suffragist movement is generally given credit for. Over the objections of mostly Southern delegates, many black women joined the ranks. After “telegrams and protests poured in” protesting segregation, members of the National Association of Colored Women “marched according to their State and occupation without let or hindrance,” noted the NAACP journal Crisis. And yet, when the women’s vote was finally achieved in 1920, that general category still did not include black women. The misogyny on display that day was vicious, but still perhaps not as endemic as the country’s racism, which existed in large degree within suffragist groups as well.

Once the press broadcast news of the marchers’ mistreatment, there was a massive public outcry that helped reinvigorate the suffrage movement. Several other artists than McKay found inspiration in the march; Cleveland Plain Dealer cartoonist James Donahey, for example, “substituted women for men in a cartoon based on the famous painting ‘Washington Crossing the Delaware,’” writes the Library of Congress. Another cartoonist, George Folsom, documented the stages of the hike from New York, with captions addressed to male readers. The strip above says, “they are making history mates—be sure you save it for your descendants.” Another strip reads “Brave women all, none braver mates. Put this away and look at it when they win.”

At the Library of Congress’s American Women site, you’ll find a wealth of resources for researching the history and impact of the 1913 Suffrage Parade. To find out more about the hundreds of contemporary Women’s Marches—open to people of every “race, ethnicity, religion, immigration status, sexual identity, gender expression, economic status, age or disability”—see the website here or read this Rolling Stone interview with organizer Linda Sarsour.

via Mashable

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

An Animated Introduction to Theodor Adorno & His Critique of Modern Capitalism

The German philosopher and sociologist Theodor Adorno had much to say about what was wrong with society, and even now, nearly fifty years after his death, his adherents would argue that his diagnoses have lost none of their relevance. But what, exactly, did he think ailed us? This animated introduction from Alain de Botton’s School of Life on the “the beguiling and calmly furious work” of the author of books like Dialectic of Enlightenment, Minima MoraliaNegative Dialectics, and The Authoritarian Personality offers a brief primer on the critical theory that constituted Adorno’s entire life’s work.

Well, almost his entire life’s work: “Until his twenties, Adorno planned for a career as a composer, but eventually focused on philosophy.” He then became an exile from his homeland in 1934, eventually landing in Los Angeles, where he found himself “both fascinated and repelled by Californian consumer culture, and thought with unusual depth about suntans and drive-ins.”

This eventually brought him to define “three significant ways in which capitalism corrupts and degrades us,” the first being that “leisure time becomes toxic” (due in large part to the “omnipresent and deeply malevolent entertainment machine which he called the Culture Industry”), the second that “capitalism doesn’t sell us the things we really need,” and the third that “proto-fascists are everywhere.”

Even if you don’t buy all the dangers Adorno ascribes to capitalism itself, his core observation still holds up: “Psychology comes ahead of politics. Long before someone is racist, homophobic, or authoritarian, they are, Adorno skillfully suggested, likely to be suffering from psychological frailties and immaturities, which is the task of a good society to get better at spotting and responding to.” In order to address this, “we should learn to understand the psychology of everyday insanity from the earliest moments.” What would Adorno, who “recognized that the primary obstacles to social progress are cultural and psychological rather than narrowly political or economic,” make of our 21st-century social media age? Maybe it would surprise him — and maybe it wouldn’t surprise him at all.

On a related note, you might want to read Alex Ross’ piece in The New Yorker, “The Frankfurt School Knew Trump Was Coming.”

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Theodor Adorno’s Philosophy of Punctuation

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, the video series The City in Cinema, the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.